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CHARLTON farmer Tim Durre says after three years of seemingly endless talks, and being on the receiving end of threats and attempted intimidation, his confidence in the management of Inland Rail has been shattered.
"There are ways and means of doing things," Mr Durre said.
"But common sense just doesn't seem to be part of the discussion, at least when it comes to this farm.
"I was initially told that Inland Rail would be built within a 60 metre wide corridor running down the side of my farm, and then follow an existing easement along Gowrie Creek through to Gowrie Junction.
Mapping showing the impact of Inland Rail on Tim Durre's Charlton farm.
"Now I'm being told that Inland Rail is coming straight through my farm, and that's going to destroy my farm, whether I like it or not.
"They might call me an obstructionist, but there's no room for negotiation, and no consideration given to actually positioning the line where it would have the least impact.
"That's very difficult to accept, because more influential people than me have already been able to have the Inland Rail shifted to their benefit."
Mr Durre pointed to mapping showing Inland Rail would require a 17m high, 260m wide embankment running through the heart of the highly productive 95 hectare irrigated fodder farm, located between Gowrie Mountain and Gowrie Junction.
Condamine floodplainSome 70km to the south west on the Inland Rail's route across the Condamine River floodplain, grain grower Jason Mundt said he was also extremely frustrated by the long running process.
"We're deliberately being kept in the dark because I think it is very clear to everyone that ARTC (Australian Rail Transport Corporation) just doesn't have the answers, because it doesn't have all the necessary information," Mr Mundt said.
"What makes it so difficult is that ARTC just doesn't seem to care what impact the construction of a 15m dam wall across the floodplain will have, even with all of the evidence that has been put in front of them.
Condamine River floodplain farmer Jason Mundt says the devastating impact of high volumes of floodwater being forced through culverts on to farmland is already plainly evident on the proposed Inland Rail route.
"It's all well and good to say there there will be culverts to let the water through, but there is already plenty of examples showing the major damage water under pressure flowing through culverts does to this prime agricultural land."
Mr Mundt showed Queensland Country Life a major washout (pictured right) on the now abandoned Millmerran rail line created by flood water flowing through a culvert. That damage included scouring on the upstream side of the culvert, where precious top soil had been sucked away.
"All we really know for certain is there is a proposed rail corridor. We don't know if it's going to be following the existing rail corridor or if it's going to go through our farm," Mr Mundt said.
"Everyone supports the idea of Inland Rail, but how this project is being developed is just a disaster waiting to happen because our pretty basic questions aren't being answered."
Rail route locked inAdding to the tension, leading Queensland lawyer Dan Creevey says the fact ARTC is currently working with the Queensland Government through the crucial environmental impact statement process to gain the necessary planning approvals was a clear indication the route is already determined, if not revealed in detail to landholders.
Mr Creevey said it was media reports and statements from opponents of Inland Rail that had created unnecessary confusion around the 216km Border to Gowrie section of the $15 billion Melbourne-Brisbane Inland Rail Project.
"Our understanding is that the process of finalising an EIS, particularly in relation to a project of this size, usually involves a series of drafts," Mr Creevey said.
Dan Creevey, Creevey Russell Lawyers.
"This is particularly pertinent where, as in the present case, the process proposed contemplates the appointment of a civil works proponent in parallel with the environmental planning approval process."
An agreement was signed between ARTC and BHQ joint venture comprising of Bielby Holdings, JF Hull Holdings and QH&M Birt on September 3, to enter into a collaborative framework agreement for the project's northern civil works program.
"ARTC advised that BHQ would initially be working with ARTC to review the reference design and develop construction plans in parallel with the environmental impact statement and methodologies ahead of the development of a fully costed proposal for the first of the work packages next year," Mr Creevey said.
"ARTC considers that the appointment of a civil works proponent in parallel with the environmental planning approval process, will allow local businesses to hit the ground running when formal approval is given."
Farmers unconvincedFarmers including Millmerran Rail Group chair Wes Judd say they are far from convinced, claiming the project had not yet received either the Queensland Government's approval nor fulfilled its obligations under the Commonwealth Government's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
In particular, Mr Judd said until the project was gazetted by the Queensland Government, talk of compulsory acquisitions of farmland for the rail corridor amounted to little more than scare tactics.
Millmerran Rail Group chair Wes Judd says he is far from convinced the route of the Inland Rail is locked in.
"There is some nasty business going on behind the scenes where some parties aren't being quite honest," Mr Judd said.
Farmers also say a final, critical report from the independent Flood Panel of Experts is still to be sighted. Moreover, they say there are still plenty of unaddressed issues emanating from a scathing Senate Committee report released in August.
Charlton uncertaintyBack at Charlton, Tim Durre says like many farmers along the route he was being forced to live with uncertainty.
"How do we replace this part of our business," Mr Durre said.
"This farm produces 600 tonnes of fodder for feedlots and western Queensland cattle producers based on 430 megalitres of high security water."
Tim Durre says like many farmers along the route he was being forced to live with uncertainty.
Adding to his frustration, Mr Durre also holds up Queensland Government mapping showing his entire farm already classified as strategic cropping land.
"Surely strategic cropping land is the stuff we absolutely have to protect because it is our most productive land," he said.
"Agriculture is needed forever. We will always have to feed people.
"I've closed the gate to ARTC. They want access to my farm for their studies, well I'm not going to give it to them.
"Common sense says there has to flexibility in the construction on Inland Rail."
Comment was sought from ARTC on the route of Inland Rail. However, Queensland Country Life was directed to Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce's office.
This article first appeared on www.queenslandcountrylife.com.au
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